You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2008.
Hillary Clinton and Maya Angelou
Dominance of Pink
Looks like the world’s imploding,
while some poor soul got shot out
of a chimney. The rest of the people
are rushing toward center. Why even
the trees seek the white-hot light.
Will we recognize the world when
the wind stops blowing, the brush in
the hand still painting acrylic?
Based on Painting the Pinks
But Not From the Dark Side
The green river is
covered with slime. Trees
are growing at an angle on
the side of the hill, where
two people on horses climb,
where there may be a path,
but I can’t see it. The wind whips
through the aforementioned trees—
green, blue, a touch of purple
looks like berries.
The beast is nowhere in the picture.
I think she might have just given
birth to wonder rather than danger.
“Nothing gold can stay,” says Frost.
Nothing here spells D-A-R-K,
nothing but slime for imagination.
based on Fantascape #12 – The Beast
|Vote For The 2008 Poet Laureate Of The Blogosphere.|
|Bill Knott||56 votes|
|Rethabile Masilo||29 votes|
|Sue Turner||12 votes|
|Leonard Blumfeld||8 votes|
|Tiel Aisha Ansari||14 votes|
|Michael Wells||31 votes|
|Melanie Bishop||3 votes|
|Steve Caratzas||62 votes|
|Jodi Herman||9 votes|
|Steven Schroeder||3 votes|
|Rob McLennan||310 votes|
|Dale Favier||6 votes|
|Montgomery Maxton||9 votes|
|Helen Losse||31 votes|
|Reginald Shepherd||8 votes|
|Tony Trigilio||52 votes|
|Gautami Tripathy||9 votes|
|Jay Sizemore||43 votes|
|James Steerforth||8 votes|
|Tony Brown||357 votes|
|Rebecca Loudon||6 votes|
Congratulations to Tony Brown. Thanks to everyone who voted for me.
I don’t know where to start. I just left the URL for the Malcolm X speech at Bookworm’s blog. Here it is again.
Okay. You’re a lawyer, right? Now we all know lawyers use a specific kind of language in legal documents – the kind most of us, including lawyers, don’t speak conversationally. And we all know that black folks can speak among themselves so that white people catch only a bit of what they’re saying. In other words, groups of people (people in given professions, etc.) often use dialect, tone, or vocabulary that complicates communication with those outside the group. Literary criticism uses references to images that are useless unless one has read the work from which they come.
Black preaching (preaching in the slave tradition) includes several elements that make it different from white preaching. Black preachers use what’s called “set pieces” – parts of a sermon that are memorized – and combine them in various ways to make new sermons. These set pieces often included quoted material. Unlike white preachers who usually hold up the book from which these quotes are taken, black preachers do not. Black preachers (and some white preachers) borrow freely from one another. King’s “I have a dream” is a perfect example of a set piece. Not the whole speech, but the part where he deviates from his prepared text. Entire books have been dedicated to the study of King’s 1963 speech. You think I’m dodging the question. Come on lawyer.
What I’m saying is that when Wright’s congregation heard “chickens come home to roost,” they knew immediately that Wright was quoting Malcolm X. They knew what parts of the speech were quoted. Likely they had heard them before in other sermons, maybe by other preachers. What white people think is racially divisive is fact to black folks. Wright isn’t “breeding hate and racist discord”; he’s telling it like it is. And then, in a part of the sermon, I’m sure we didn’t hear, he gave an altar call and beckoned the sinners to bring their burdens to Jesus. Wright’s goal is reconciliation – sinner to Christ, black to white.
Not all churches with black pastors and black congregations are considered Black Churches in the historical sense. There are seven historic black denominations (elsewhere on this blog, maybe in a comment.)
Let’s try again. We have that proverbial partially filled water-glass. Is it half full or half empty? It’s both, but how we express it says something about us. Some Americans think that it’s half full: America isn’t perfect, but it’s the best nation our world has ever seen. Other Americans think it’s half empty: America is flawed, but with some very hard work she has the potential to become the best nation the world has ever seen. I think you are half-fuller, and Wright is a half-emptier. Who’s right? I say both are.
But the person who sees the glass as half empty speaks as a pessimist (from the point of view of the other, the optimist). The optimist screams that pessimists should be happy with what they have. The pessimist states what he sees as the flawed status quo. Does this mean he is without hope? I don’t think so. I see lots of room for discussion. There is more common ground than uncommon: Both groups love America. But one is more likely to be satisfied with the status quo than the other. Does that make the unsatisfied “evil”? Pointing out positive facts is “good,” but pointing out negative facts is “evil”?
Now let’s jump back to the racial issue and throw in the glass illustration. The whites are the optimists, who see America as doing “better” in race relations that ever before. They are right. The blacks are the pessimists who see that America has not yet achieved racial equality. This is over-simplified and stereotypical (in other words, only partially true). Some blacks fit the half full mold, and some whites fit the half empty one. Combine that with conservative and liberal views, different religious understandings, etc., and no wonder we don’t know what a person means by what he says.
But it’s too easy to call everyone who doesn’t see things the way we do a liar. It just isn’t true. It’s like all the folks who scream I live by emotion only I’m the one who knew that “chickens come home to roost” was quoted, and I knew where. That’s a fact. It’s a fact they didn’t know. Let’s not play “my facts are better than your facts,” okay?
I do not know the source of all that Jeremiah Wright said, but I do not think he is a liar. If he said he was quoting, I think he was. But it has been very hard to hear Wright in context. Primary sources are the best way to make valid judgments on what is and isn’t said. But if we are unfamiliar with the subject matter, we might need some secondary sources as well. When I wanted to find Malcolm X’s speech, I used Google. But I had two facts to go on.
Another aside. Do lawyers ever criticize other lawyers? Other than the public battles in the court room. Do one lawyer ever question another lawyers judgment? I bet they do. Do lawyers ever question the law? Poets criticize other poets. Historians make a living criticizing other historians. Okay. Do American have a right to criticize America? Do you? Why? Is Wright an American? How did he loose this right? Why is he “evil” by offering a view whereby dialog may bring change and change may bring us closer to equality?
What Wright offers America is hope.
Making Our Lives Available to Others by Henri Nouwen
“One of the arguments we often use for not writing is this: “I have nothing original to say. Whatever I might say, someone else has already said it, and better than I will ever be able to.” This, however, is not a good argument for not writing. Each human person is unique and original, and nobody has lived what we have lived. Furthermore, what we have lived, we have lived not just for ourselves but for others as well. Writing can be a very creative and invigorating way to make our lives available to ourselves and to others.
We have to trust that our stories deserve to be told. We may discover that the better we tell our stories the better we will want to live them.”
So “there’s nothing new under the sun.” Well, duh! And if we concentrate on message, we probably will be repeating something that already been said. But if we tell our unique story by formulating an image we have seen, we will be adding to what has been previously written.
One lesson I learned when I returned to school is that life is too important to begin with analysis. We must start with our stories. One might think I leaned this in a creative writing class. But no, it was a class in the sociology of religion. Our lives are our stories. From our stories come the lessons. (A big thank you to Alton B. Pollard III.)
—for Alton B. Pollard III
Rustling leaves welcome the breezes,
but tree trunks remain silent.
I recognize the cry of an owl,
not the scuffling: that I cannot explain—
nor Jesus in Alton’s face.
Both. Shining. From the dark.
It is not the day that holds the fire—
nor is there consolation in moonlight,
but rather: where time and place
don’t seem to matter,
nor the colors of skin,
falsely bleached by the bright sun
into a feigned harmony,
’til I’ve forgotten if it is hue or tone
of which we vainly speak. Yes,
the night embellished as it deepened,
enhancing, as the night will do,
that which by day remains shadow.
I know what I saw in the upper room:
what cloaked me in gooseflesh—
and beckons gently now.
from Gathering the Broken Pieces, “Poets On Peace #5,” FootHills
“This [airing of snippets of sermons taken out of context followed by accusations of anti-American behavior and racism] is not an attack on Jeremiah Wright. This is an attack on the black church [on preaching in the slave tradition and on blacks’ audacity to be ‘different.”].”
“Maybe now, an honest dialogue about race in this country will begin.”
Read more about it.
Why did Wright speak out now? We been playin’ the dozens.
The halls are buzzing—here at the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. So much excitement about Poetry. So much excitement about Ann Hite. So much anticipation. Even rumors, once in a while, concerning the upcoming Southern-style Garden Party honoring Ruth at which time Poetry Editor, Helen Losse, will meet Fiction Editor, Phoebe Kate Foster face to face, fill corridors and classrooms. Flowers will sing and food will proclaim. Val’s grandballons will dig in the dirt. Might the shy Rebekah Cowell make an appearance? Time will tell.
Poems-on-the-Odds winds down. We’ve outdone ourselves this year.
Tomorrow the Mule will feature Carolyn Krieter-Foronda, Poet Laureate of Virginia. She’s our second Southern Poet Laureate. Readers will remember that North Carolina’s Kathryn Stripling Byer made her appearance on the Mule last April. Will others join them? Who will we ask next year? Time will tell. We’re the Dead Mule not a dead school, and as we speak ten poets stand in the lecture hall ready to shine in June and July. And we’re open for submissions.
The very next day, the first of Ann Hite’s short stories, “Life on Black Mountain” begins, getting a jump on May. According to Phoebe Kate, sister woman to our beloved editor Valerie MacEwan, the Mule all but “discovered” Ann Hite. She’s been in the Mule before. Her “Introduction” was published days ago. And as I said, the halls are full of noise. I heard some kind of chatter about a new series by the editors. Just a rumor. Might not work out. But check back. The Dead Mule School’s always up to something that only time will tell.
Thrilled and excited, I write.
Also posted at the Dead Mule.
Writing, Opening a Deep Well By Thomas Merton
“Writing is not just jotting down ideas. Often we say: “I don’t know what to write. I have no thoughts worth writing down.” But much good writing emerges from the process of writing itself. As we simply sit down in front of a sheet of paper and start to express in words what is on our minds or in our hearts, new ideas emerge, ideas that can surprise us and lead us to inner places we hardly knew were there.
One of the most satisfying aspects of writing is that it can open in us deep wells of hidden treasures that are beautiful for us as well as for others to see.”
Writing is a process whereby we create and expand our thinking. This is why I object to using only Bible verses to answer a question. Not that I object to Bible verses. Not that the Word of the Lord doesn’t matter. But if we stop there, without paraphrasing what we read, we learn nothing of what we really think.
“If I had no choice about the age in which I was to live, I nevertheless have a choice about the attitude I take and about the way and the extent of my participation in its living ongoing events. To choose the world is not then merely a pious admission that the world is acceptable because it comes from the hand of God. It is first of all an acceptance of a task and a vocation in the world, in history and in time. In my time, which is the present. To choose the world is to choose to do the work I am capable of doing, in collaboration with my brother and sister, to make the world better, more free, more just, more livable, more human. And it has now become transparently obvious that mere automatic “rejection of the world” and “contempt for the world” is in fact not a choice but an evasion of choice. The person, who pretends that he can turn his back on Auschwitz or Viet Nam and acts as if they were not there, is simply bluffing.
The great problem of our time is not to formulate clear answers to neat theoretical questions but to tackle the self-destructive alienation of man in a society dedicated in theory to human values and in practice to the pursuit of power for its own sake.”
Thomas Merton. Contemplation in A World of Action (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1973: 164-165, 168.